Category: Recording

Mike Keneally Interview with SweetWater

Here’s an excellent 40+ minute  Mike Keneally interview.

He talks about his work, his upbringing, as well as his philosophy. 40+ minutes long.

Here’s an excerpt:

…especially nowadays where it becomes increasingly unlikely that anyone even at levels that appear to be successful. You’ll see bands that are touring all the time and are making records and people like the records and you’d think , “Oh, they must be doing ok,” and then you find out that they’re struggling, you know…. It’s just not easy.

There’s no shame in saying that I’m working 9-5 –  I’ve got this gig that subsidizes my life…. and then when I get home at night, I’ll get on the computer and work on music for a couple of hours, and maybe on the weekends, I’ll go out with my buddies and play in a bar or something.

Somebody will say that to me, “I’m not really a musician. I only play on weekends or anything. I’m only able to work on the computer once in a while and stuff, because I’ve got this gig.” …and I’d go, “That’s great! That’s really cool.” You’re not struggling, and you’re not panicked about the fact that music isn’t paying for your life. You have a thing that pays for your life, and then you’re able to do music for the best reasons to do music – because you love it.

They ain’t nothing wrong with someone that has a 9-5 gig and just does music when they can. The challenge of course is just making the time and having the energy, and that’s just something we all need to go through at any level – Just got to prioritize.

– Mike Keneally


As a very good friend of mine says, “Mike Keneally is a national treasure!

Best. Line. Ever.


ModernDrummer: Progressive Drumming Essentials

ModernDrummer: Progressive Drumming Essentials. The videos on the site go into the basics of odd time signature, polyrhythms and polyrhythmic grooves. The actual article in print form (from the magazine) shows everything in charts to make things easier to dissect and follow along if you’re interested, but the videos themselves are very, very cool in their own right.




Joe Satriani Commenting on His Approach on Writing Guitar Instrumental vs Non-Instrumentals

Just came across a new interview with Joe Satriani. There was something interesting I found around the 10:45 mark where he discussed his approach in writing instrumental music vs vocal-oriented music.–shockwave-supernova–518967893

Here’s the quote from the video, starting at around 10:45, transcribed for you here to digest:

In instrumental music, the solo section is often used as a ball of frenzy. You know what I mean?
Because you already played guitar – minute and a half, leading up to it, right?
Sometimes people want, just a ball of frenzy -“You’re a guitar player and I’m only listening to you because you do your thing” you know?
And of course I kind of rebel against that, immediately. Anytime sometime tries to put me in a space and say, “Please go do what we ask”
I’d go, “no i’m not going to do that”.
Right, just because, I”m not going to do that.
There are a lot of these spaces where I don’t feel that’s the right thing to do.
Perhaps it’s the attitude, the setup that, convey the real message.

Maybe when the solo comes, you kick back and you can show the other side
if I can get a little more song-writing-vibe about this, I’d say
You can use the solo section as a bridge
and that way you don’t have to put in a bridge.

If you got a vocal song you need a bridge to give you another side of the story
and it’s usually a softer sell
sometimes if the verses are dreamy
the bridge can be something that’s pretty outrageous

It could be 2 sentences. The break out part of the story.
The instrumental can be something different sometimes
because you can’t get away with 2 verses back to back
you have to go intro, verse, right to the chorus, and then somewhere else, because you don’t have words…  To give a different take on this story telling…

So then this leads me to this idea that maybe the solo should not be a ball of frenzy, that it should not be a self promotional thing where you say, again, that after 15 records, you can really play the guitar, and I’m going to show you right now.

Because that bothers me when I’m listening to a record, and I go, that guy is really trying to hammer me with that, you know.

So I would take certain songs –  I tell the guys in the studio, “The solo is going to soar. This melodic thing – you can play though through it.” Whereas another song or solo, they may go, “If you play a lot of notes here, pull it in tight, so you’ve got a really rigid canvas to put the ball of the insanity on top of it.” We have to think about that as we put together the record to make sure we produce every song right. I mean I’m looking at that too, but I’m thinking, “This record has needs to be the most melodic, and I want every solo has to have an invention in it, a motif.” Every couple of bars is a signature that you would say is a melodic signature, not just proof again that, “yes he did practice for all those hours”.


Pat Mastelotto’s Drums, Microphones and Studio Setup

Might be a little long overdue posting this, but here are some snapshots showing Pat Mastelotto’s drum kit setup, microphone placements and studio he had while tracking for my 2nd album back in 2013. Sorry about the blurriness – I believe Pat took these with his camera phone at the time.

Click on picture for larger view.

Microphones used

There were 2 overheads, 2 kicks (in and out), snare (top and bottom), hi-hat, toms, single room mic. The ride might have been mic-ed as well, but I do not remember exactly. The overheads were Earthworks (although I’m not sure what the model was).


I believe he was using an API preamp

Which mics I used and which ones I did not

During mixing, I didn’t use the snare bottoms, kick (out), hi-hats. Things sounded much more focused and better that way. So it was mainly the overheads, kick, snare and the room. The toms were not played much, but I would un-mute those microphones whenever they were played. Every thing sounded excellent when they came in, and I all needed to do was enhance what I had with some processing.

Phase Trick on Multi-Mic sources

One thing about phase is that whenever you have multi-mic on a single source, there would be a phase relationship between what’s been recorded by each of those microphones. When the combination of these signals have phase problems, you would hear things sounding hollow, lack of focus and specific frequencies sounding missing.

In a case where there’s a drum kit that is mic-ed with spaced-pair overheads, 1 mic on kick, 1 mic on snare, sometimes you would need to hit the phase button on the kick/ snare to see which sound you would prefer. Often times, the difference is dramatic, but sometimes it isn’t (where the engaged/not-engaged sound equally bad).

I’m going to talk about the latter case.

What to do when the phase button isn’t making much of a difference and neither settings sound good

When mixing my record, one scenario I ran into was where the snare’s phase setting, in relation to the overheads didn’t really make a difference, and didn’t sound particularly good. Then it occurred to me that every time I EQ a signal – any signal, the EQ itself is already changing the phase response of whatever it’s processing. If I change any settings, let’s say – even simply by nudging an already-existing high-pass-filter acting on the signal, by maybe 10 Hz higher or lower than my original 100Hz setting (or vary the Q) – whatever change in setting, then that itself is changing the phase response than what it was before. Changing the phase response of one signal (my snare) would change the phase relationship of that against my other signal(s) (overheads, kick).

Nudging EQ settings to change the phase response and the phase relationship with other signals

I did just that – nudged a subtle EQ setting of my snare, THEN go back-and-forth with the snare phase button. The difference between when the phase button is engaged or vice versa was then quite a bit more dramatic before. The ‘better’ version did in fact sound a lot better than before I did all this.

Of course, when you sweep the EQ setting, you may be already be able to find a spot where things overall just sound better, without hitting that phase button – but the point of this post is to mention that a nudge in an existing EQ setting every so slightly may be all that you need.

To summarize:

  • Apply equalization changes a phase response of a signal.
  • Changing equalization settings would change the phase response and its relationship with other signals.
  • Making a slight equalization settings change could help create a bigger difference between whether the phase button is engaged or not.


Discussion on Digital Recording Levels

The general thinking of many people (including myself when I first started out), is that they would want to record tracks with the maximum number of bits/ resolution without clipping. In reality, the Analog-to-Digital Converters (ADC) are mixed-signal components that have optimum range of operation. In the hotter ranges towards digital zero 0db, there is actually a slight bit more degradation introduced to the sound than in the lower level ranges. Provided that audio is recorded with 24-bits, you would actually have a 144db of dynamic range. That’s enough to capture the difference of volume of a sleeping baby vs a roaring jet engine.

With hot levels, you could always risk of momentarily going above 0 (digital clipping). While the meters of the DAW or hardware metering may not show, the reality is that the meter itself may not be fast enough to catch the quick transients (for things like drums, for example). It is rather better to record with conservative levels than having the chance of ruining that perfect take. If you’re going to record all hot, then find the need to reduce the levels of every channel in your DAW (which mathematically subtracts from each recorded track) that feeds the master bus, where it all sums back together, then what’s really the point of having the hot levels in the first place?

While I’m not here to say one should aim for the opposite extreme of recording with the lowest levels as possible, because of noise floors, but having a peak of -12db in the DAW meters (when the volume fader is unaltered and set to 0) should be a good target to aim for.

$300 Dollar Home Studio Budget Breakdown

Recently there’s been a lot of discussions/debate on the interwebs on whether or not a home studio could be built with $300. While I agree on both fronts that gear does matter, while minimal budget gear should not prevent you from creating and recording music, the more important question is what would one really spend that $300 on?

I remember when I first started out, the audio interface and the microphone alone had cost just about that much, but there’s a lot more variety of options at lower costs with better quality available now (such as with audio interfaces and headphones).

Let’s ballpark it in numbers. Keep in mind that one may need to hunt in the used market to keep within budget.

  • DAW: Reaper ($60)
  • Microphone: SM57 ($70 Used)
  • Mic Cable: XLR ($15 Used)
  • Audio Interface (USB-interface): $100
  • Headphones: $40-60
  • Mic stand: ($15 Used)

Total: $300-320

You may decide to get a used pair of monitors for $100 instead, but that would also require purchasing of 2 more cables for that. (Headphones come with cables) – adding more to what’s already over $300.

The great thing about this list is that Reaper’s a great DAW for a great price and contains far too many features than some of the DAWs costing 8-10 times more. Its stock plugins are very useable. SM57 is a classic used in most electric guitars and snare drums for the last couple of decades. Most of the gear on the list would come at a one-time cost but chances are, that you would likely not need to upgrade those in the future.

This whole list assumes that the person already contains all the instruments needed for recording, and not need to make any additional purchases. Otherwise there’s no way to meet that $300 mark.

While there’s a lot of quality gear that don’t come expensive, there’s also a lot of poor quality things out there (<$99 audio interfaces, <$100 made-in-Asia condenser microphones) that one needs to look out for. While a bit of a stretch indeed, it’s not entirely impossible.

On the subject of gear vs technique – my dear friend Ronan explains it best: